Parking spaces in Williams Lake’s downtown continue to be a hot commodity says restaurant owner George Cheung.
Cheung is convinced the fact bylaw officers are chalk marking tires parked in two-hour zones is not working.
“Unless you give your bylaw officers the right tool to do their job or change the bylaw to raise the fine people don’t care,” Cheung said.
“A $25 ticket is nothing. If you made it a $100 fine and you hurt their pockets maybe people will start to think.”
City bylaw officer Grant Martin said enforcement is tough.
“We can only do what we can legally do.”
Last month Cheung wrote a letter to the editor suggesting residents are abusing two-hour parking limits on Second Avenue.
“The street is zoned for two-hour parking, however, most of the people parking on this street park there for the entire day,” he stated in the letter.
“These people are the employees and owners of various businesses along this street.”
Cheung said he wrote about Second Avenue because that’s the area of town he sees, yet it’s a concern for all of downtown.
There are presently five free parking lots within the downtown core and spots available to rent for $20 a month.
“People aren’t using them,” Cheung said. “Instead they play this game. Ever since I wrote my letter to the editor many people responded that they appreciated the letter and that it was great.”
The intent is not to pick on people, but there has to be a change of mindset, he suggested.
“If people see someone is parking downtown all day, take down the license number and call city hall. I don’t know all the solutions, but if we all do our little part it will get better.”
Cheung’s staff is parking in one of the free parking lots and walking to work. He said he’s talked to some people and they mention being afraid to walk back to a parking lot when it’s dark, but wonders if somehow people can arrange to walk in pairs if they are afraid.
“It’s about making spaces available to customers and visitors. If people cannot find a parking space nearby they are going to leave to shop away from downtown,” he added.
Martin agreed, adding business owners and employees are defeating themselves if they occupy available parking spaces.
“If people are coming downtown for an appointment even, they need parking spaces too.”
The Williams Lake Central Business Improvement Area Association’s directors are meeting with the bylaw office Thursday about parking.
Executive Director Judy O’Neill echoed Cheung saying it’s about educating the public.
“We want to work together with businesses,” she said.
“We don’t want to take a club and clobber anybody because sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.”
When the BIA went out and talked with business owners and employees it was apparent that some people move their vehicles around when it gets closer to night because they don’t want to go into back alleys.
“Some of the business owners will give us all the reasons they don’t want to park somewhere but then expect their customers to park there,” O’Neill pointed out.
“If you think it’s unsafe to walk there, do you think your customers are going to?”
The BIA has been working with the city to improve lighting in parking lots and to have more of them paved so people are not stepping out of cars into the mud.